Paul Butterfield’s Better Days,”Better Days+It All Comes Back” (Edsel EDSS1077)- Butterfield’s best days were arguably already well behind him when these two albums were released by Bearsville Records in the early seventies,but the Chicago born harmonica player had assembled a fine working band to deliver Better Days’ eclectic blend of bluesy Americana,and their sterling efforts still repay closer investigation today. Many of the tracks are blessed with an understated authenticity which should appeal to devotees of Ry Cooder or The Band, and there’s some stylish guitar work on offer from Amos Garrett,who’s best remembered these days for his sinuous solo on Maria Muldaur’s 1974 hit,”Midnight at the Oasis.”
Judie Tzuke,”Left Hand Talking” (Cherry Red CDM RED 359)-This tasteful exercise in singer-songwriter pop was the last of Judie Tzuke’s albums to be released by a major British record label when it appeared on Columbia Records in 1991. The audience for Judie’s mildly ethereal brand of music-making was by then much smaller than the sizeable following that she’d enjoyed during her creative heyday in the late seventies, and “Left Hand Talking” made a minimal impact on the album charts on its release despite the presence of fine covers of The Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows” and Judee Sill’s “Jesus Was A Crossmaker” and a re-recording of her best known song,”Stay With Me Till Dawn.”
“The Journey Is Long - The Jeffrey Lee Pierce Sessions Project” (Glitterhouse GRCD 762)- Jeffrey Lee Pierce’s life of unrestrained rock’n’roll excess may have come to an untimely end in 1996,but the former Gun Club frontman’s friends and admirers are still striving manfully to keep his legacy alive via albums such as this. “The Journey Is Long” draws on the contents of some skeletal demo tapes that were unearthed in Pierce’s loft ,fleshed out and finished off here by a gang of musical malcontents led by Nick Cave, Deborah Harry and Steve Wynn of Dream Syndicate fame. Cypress Grove’s “L.A.County Jail Blues” and Wynn’s “From Death To Texas” are the pick of a varied and compelling collection.
Chicken Shack,”Imagination Lady” (Esoteric ECLEC2333)-Stan Webb’s dynamic outfit recorded a string of splendid blues rock albums for Mike Vernon’s Blue Horizon label during the late sixties, but all good things must eventually come to an end,and they left the fold after the release of “Accept” in 1970. The band’s new three man line-up then found themselves ensconced at Deram Records, and their move to Decca’s “progressive” offshoot inspired what is arguably the finest offering in the entire Chicken Shack repertoire. The self-penned “Daughter of the Hillside” is the pick of a muscular package which also features gutsy re-vamps of B.B.King’s “Crying Won’t Help You Now” and Don Nix’s “Going Down” alongside a surprisingly sensitive treatment of Tim Hardin’s “If I Were A Carpenter.”
Sinae Lee,”Liszt : Annees de pelerinage”(Nimbus NI6202)- This absorbing new keyboard recital from Sinae Lee finds the highly regarded South Korean pianist coming to terms with Franz Liszt’s wide-ranging set of three suites for solo piano. The Hungarian composer’s stirring creations were apparently inspired by his meanderings around Switzerland and Italy during the middle of the nineteenth century,including exquisite pieces such as “Orage,” “Pastorale” and “Les Jeux d’eau,” the latter a colourful evocation of the hundred sparkling fountains at the Villa d’ Este.